Business Objectives Are Not Just For Christmas

Last Updated Dec 1, 2009 5:36 AM EST

What are your objectives for 2010?

As we enter December many business leaders are pulling together their key objectives for next year. But how many of the objectives that you are currently developing will last the next 12 months?

All too often, if the first attempt at delivering an objective fails, business leaders simply give up on it and look for a new objective. One of the reasons that this happens is that managers confuse objectives and tactics, so let's immediately sort out the differences between these two terms:

  • Objectives represent the specific business outcome you are seeking to achieve (e.g. new business growth or greater customer loyalty). Strategic objectives are those objectives that are critical to the overall direction and longer-term success of the business.
  • Tactics are the actions and initiatives designed to help you achieve your objectives

The successful delivery of your specific tactics and initiatives will only work under two conditions.

  1. Your objectives must be clear and focused. For example, Tesco has a strategic objective to be as big in non-food as it is in food. Delivering this goal has meant that, in some instances, more resources have been allocated to non-food teams than to the traditional food teams, creating a stream of innovation and new business development in areas including clothing, electrical goods and financial services, as well as its launch of Tesco Direct.
  2. You must gain organisational commitment. Achieving stretching performance goals is difficult and usually comes with its fair share of failure. Once your first few prototypes or projects fail to meet your objective it can be tempting to give up on the goal, rather than develop new initiatives.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has said that his business is "fixed on the vision, flexible on the journey", and that is the attitude that best leads to success. Persistence is key here, and that can only happen if you keep your objectives relatively constant and are willing to pursue the them until you succeed.

It took Sir James Dyson and his team over 5,000 prototypes before his company perfected its design of the bag-less vacuum cleaner, and, going back to Tesco, it took the UK retailer over five years before it developed a profitable and scalable Tesco Express format to drive its move into the convenience retail channel.

So, take care as you develop your key business objectives for 2010. After all, if they're to be of any value at all, they're not just for Christmas!

  • Stuart Cross

    Stuart Cross is a founder of Morgan Cross Consulting, which helps companies find new ways to drive substantial, profitable growth. His clients include Alliance Boots, Avon and PricewaterhouseCoopers.